Latin American

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Most recently, we were invited to Caribe Blu located on S. Alafaya Trail across the street from the Stoneybrook Golf Community to a special event marking their restaurant being open for six months.

Upon our arrival to the restaurant, we were welcomed by a warm and inviting decor filled with pictures of family members, which surrounded a saying, all in big letters “el sazon de familia” which means “the flavor of my family”.

This was quite apparent, because this event immediately gave me the vibe of the family parties we had growing up, with plentiful amount of food and drinks as well as people vibrant as the music.

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It was a family style vibe, come with an empty plate, leave with a full one with many popular dishes they serve at the restaurant; pernil asado, pollo guisado, and much more!

I quickly loaded up my dish, for I had not eaten lunch that day and began to sit down as we listened to the salsa music that peppered our ear buds.

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For my first dish, I loaded up with my typical favorites, pernil (pork shoulder), rice, and ropa vieja (a shredded steak dish) and ate away.

In high school many of my friends invited me over to their family parties, and it was then where I gained an appreciation for both Hispanic food and culture.

Once I took the first bite of pernil, I was reminded of the various family parties that my friends invited me to long ago. The food which was hearty and delicious, and at first bite it was clear of the years and years of tradition passed down from generation to generation. This is how hispanic food should be, and was perhaps the closest to a home cooked meal away from home.

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The rest of the night was filled with some live music, and raffles sponsored by local businesses such as Hand and Stone Spa, Avalon Jewelers, and Republic National.

I came in there not knowing anyone and I came out feeling like part of the family.

From my perception, the overall goal of Caribe Blu is to make you feel like part of the family through both the food and the hospitality.

Susan Nett (owner) mentioned to me about the various events that occur during some days of the week, like live music and dancing on the weekends and a very attractive brunch special that occur on Sundays.

Thank You Caribe Blu for making me feel like part of the family with the great service and great food.

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Susan and her family
Susan and her family
Tostones topped with Pernil
Tostones topped with Pernil
More Live Music
More Live Music
Tres Leche and Guava Guava Cheescake
Tres Leche and Guava Guava Cheescake

Check Them Out

Caribe Blu
2822 S Alafaya Trail, Orlando, FL 32828
(407) 985-3768
http://www.caribeblu.com/

 

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Sofrito Cafe is a new mom & pop restaurant near Disney that’s really trying to focus on their community.
Above is a ‘Community Bookcase” for you to take a look & dive in to explore, from interactive board games to Old hispanic books. There’s also a world map in the restaurant to pin where you’re from to show all the diverse people that come into Sofrito Cafe everyday.

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I began with some fresh juices Mango (left) and an uncommon, but delectable fruit Soursop (right).

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Click to add a blog post for Sofrito Latin Cafe on Zomato

This Latin, Asian, and Southern American BBQ fusion joint in Orlando’s Mills 50 district has a nice list of bites, including Matambre smoked brisket sandwiches topped with egg, Indian Butter chicken tacos and the Latin plantain and fried yuca sides.

But it’s all about the Oakwood Smoked St. Louis Barbecue Ribs here. Succulent. Juicy. Sweet, yet refined. Delicious. When you can get it, it’s really good. The problem is that it is can sell out fast, so call ahead and make sure they’ve got some ready for you.

Founded by Thomas “Tito” Ward Esteves, the founder of the Treehouse Truck, one of the first so called gourmet food trucks in Orlando, Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa is a an ode to his family’s deep love for food. Barbakoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taino people, from which the term “barbecue” derives.

The menu consists of sandwiches, tacos, platters, and sides, all done very well.

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The Oak-smoked St. Louis ribs (half-rack $14.99, full $22.99) are truly among the best, if not the best, ribs in all of Orlando – slow-cooked with a crispy surface yet tender, fall of the bone meat within and a nice sweet flavor. Try it with the crispy sweet fennel apple salad.

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The Indian butter chicken ($2.95), flavored in Indian an orange tikka currry sauce and topped with pepitas, jalapeno and cilantro – this was a favorite and definitely would order again.

 

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The open faced Matahambre sandwich ($8.99), features slices of Oakwood smoked brisket with dabs of chimichurri sauce,  grilled tomatoes and topped with an over easy fried egg – and slathered a bit too much with mayonaisse. Accompanied with grilled corn on the cob, smokily charred and sprinkled with pepper, lime and salty Mexican cotija cheese

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Click to add a blog post for Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa on Zomato

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You might have seen Lechonera Latina 1 a few times if you’ve ever driven down East Colonial right before Dean Road, hoping to fill up on some gas, only to find yourself at a Latin restaurant converted from a gas station.

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Don’t be too afraid – they have some of the best Latin style street food in East Orlando.

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Though they need to wipe down their counters and floors a little better, this greasy corner of the world does a few dishes quite well.

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Here as it is at Lechonera Latina 2, you order at the counter, pointing at desired dishes like stewed chicken or roasted pork, plantains, and a list of rice dishes (white, yellow, with beans, etc.). Or you can order off the menu.

I recommend 3 favorite dishes here:

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1. Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder) with yellow rice

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2. Tripleta Sandwich – Like a Cuban sandwich on steroids, these babies are filled with sliced ham, pork, and chicken between two long slices of Cuban bread.

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3. Mangu is a Dominican dish made from boiling and mashing unripened plantains, with a consistency almost of a potato puree. The dish is popular with breakfast and often served with eggs, slices of salty, savory salami sausage and grilled cheese (queso frito) as it is here at Lechonera Latina.

Boiled mashed plantains can be traced back to Africans in the Congo region who came to the island during the height of the slave trade. The original word was something akin to mangusi and referred to almost any root vegetable that was boiled and mashed.

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Lechoneras are a category of Latin American restaurants, primarily from Puerto Rico, Cuba, or the Dominican Republic, selling roasted pork along with rice and a variety of other homemade dishes.

It’s a lovely sight to see the dining cart and can be fun to pick up the different entrees and items that you want for the meal.

It’s also usually relatively cheap ranging from $4.99 to $6.99 for a hefty plate of yellow rice and beans (or pigeon peas) and a side of pernil – roasted pork shoulder with some nice pork skin cracklings.

Tu Casa, a hole-in-the-wall on South Orange Blossom Trail is one such Latin American restaurant, specializing in cuisine originating from the island nation of the Dominican Republic.

Other dishes available include Beef Stew, Baked Chicken, and Chicken Stew, but at Tu Casa there are a variety of different daily specials ranging from fried tilapia, cod fish, to lasagna.

I had the roast pork, which was excellent with the rice, but my dining partner, who had ordered the beef stew, found that dish to be a bit dry. Overall, a good value for a home-y meal.

“No hay nada mejor que comer en Tu Casa” – There is nothing like eating at home.

Tu Casa Latin Cuisine
Hours: Monday-Saturday – 7:30am-8pm
Phone: 407-856-3997
http://www.tucasarestaurant-orlando.com/

Tu Casa Domincan restaurant
Tu Casa Domincan restaurant
Line up at Tu Casa
Line up at Tu Casa
Dishes
Dishes
Sweet Plantains aka maduros
Sweet Plantains aka maduros

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Roast Pork with rice platter

Rice plate with stewed beef
Rice plate with stewed beef

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Tu Casa Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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“They’ve got grilled beef hearts, marinated Peruvian style,” my coworker mentioned one morning. We knew then and there where lunch would be at that day. We had to make our way over to Casselberry to check this little Peruvian place, El Buzo.

I first heard about El Buzo from the venerable Faiyaz Kara of the Orlando Weekly, who had visited and reviewed the Peruvian restaurant for the Weekly’s dining review section and found it to be quite good. A dear friend and co worker of mine also read the piece and requested a lunch time excursion to visit the little restaurant hidden in a strip mall in Casselberry.

El Buzo, which means “the diver”, is run by husband and wife team who man the tiny, open kitchen area and churn out these authentic, wonderful Peruvian seafood dishes that they prepare to order with the freshest fish, possibly caught by Chef Bruno himself. When dining here, you can see that the owner-chef, who was a deep sea diving champion and fishermen in Peru, excels in these “comida del mar,” where his love for the sea translates onto the plate.

Our dining party starts off with some of the anticuchos ($6.95), Peruvian style grilled beef hearts, succulent and savory with a nice texture, and some of the pulpo al olivo ($8.95), octopus covered in a olive-cream sauce, served with a side of saltine crackers. Crackers aside, these little morsels of olive flavored octopus were superb, with layers of olive and octopus flavors mingling on the tip of the tongue. I could probably order this every time.

We also order a plate of the ceviche de pescado ($9.95) , a national dish of Peru, with sashimi style grouper fish marinated in lime juices and onions, served with lettuce, sliced red onions, and of course the Peruvian staple of corn.

My co-workers order the Lomo Saltado ($9.95), a stir-fried dish – a dish influenced by Peruvian-Chinese – of beef strips and sliced onions, tomatos, and french fries, and also the filete de pescado ($9.95), a pan fried filet of grouper served with white rice and salad. I sampled some and found the fish to be very fresh and tasty, much like the other seafood dishes here.

My dish, which came out last and near the end of the meal as my companions were finishing, was the causa de camarones ($7.95), a shrimp salad rolled up in yellow whipped sheets of potato and pepper and lime. The causa came out late, I suspect, due to the lack of kitchen staff available to assist during the lunch hour. The dish was very good though – creamy, fresh and refreshingly light –  which made up for the delay.

Definitely try the authentic Peruvian dishes, particularly the seafood dishes, at El Buzo. And maybe call and order ahead for lunch if you are in a hurry.

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Peruvian Chicha Morada – a sweet, cool, juice made with purple corn, cinnamon, and pineapple juice originating from the indigenous Incan of Peru and a side of dried corn.

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Chef Bruno at the helm

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Ceviche de pescado, a national dish of Peru, with sashimi style grouper fish marinated in lime juices and onions, served with lettuce, sliced red onions, and of course the Peruvian staple of corn.

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 Pulpo al olivo ($8.95), octopus covered in a olive-cream sauce, served with a side of saltine crackers

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Anticuchos – Peruvian style grilled beef hearts

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Lomo Saltado – stir fried beef and french fries

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Grilled grouper fish filet

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Causa de camarones – a creamy, fresh shrimp salad rolled in yellow sheets of potato

 

 

El Buzo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Fin.esse is one of those rare gems in Central Florida’s sometimes barren foodie landscape that you can bring out to your friends in a conversation as an example of what great food can exist Orlando, outside of the chains and fast food joints (Orlando recently earned the dubious distinction of ranking number one for the fast food market in QSR magazine).

Fin.esse, located in Lake Mary off of CR 46A, is owned and operated by a partnership of chef-owners Alex T. Brugger, and Autumn Mccoy. At the helm is Chef Alex and his lovely wife Autumn. Chef Alex is a former Executive chef at the award winning Citrus restaurant in downtown Orlando as well as concept chef for Timpano, Samba Room, and more. He started at 16 as a dishwasher for acclaimed celebrity chef Norman Van Aiken and worked his way up to the top. The inspiration for the food at Fin.esse comes from French, Spanish (many of the dishes are odes to Chef Alex’ grandmother’s home recipes), and American influences.*

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Inside the restaurant, the decor is very modern and clean, similar to a city back drop. Definitions of cassoulets and confits adorn the walls at Fin.esse, a theme that gets carried away all the way down to the list of items on the menu.

For appetizers, the crowd of bloggers and media folk sampled an assortment of offerings from Fin.esse including the Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread. The pork belly n’ eggs was spiced & slow roasted, made with two farm fresh sunny-side eggs, topped with a marsala demi-glace was excellent: the pork belly was crispy and flavorful and the eggs were delicious alongside the pork belly. A favorite was the Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains. They also whipped out the delicious signature duck confit puffs, a kind of duck pot pie made with maple leaf duck, fork tender 12 hour roast inside a puff pastry.

For entree, I had the paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice ($24). The lobster was tender and cooked well on top of the flavorful arborio rice, probably one of the best renditions of paella I have had in Orlando. My partner enjoyed her smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze ($22).

For dessert, I sampled the fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream. The dessert was fun to eat, though I had a bit too much of the carbs for me that night, and anyways I wanted to save room for the lovely dessert that was said to have been what made Chef Autumn fall in love and eventually marry Chef Alex (ask about its nickname): the chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

The dictionary definition of Finesse is “refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture.” Fin.esse in Lake Mary tries and succeeds at this refinement in its delightful culinary creations, truly something not to be missed and definitely a place to try again and again with friends. At Fin.esse, where they recently won “Best New Restaurant 2011” by Seminole Magazine, you can tell the owners have a passion for food and it shows.

Fin.esse also hosts their famous Chef’s Table 12 (call for reservations) and also serve artisan “craft” beers, independent and interesting wines and hosts a full bar.

Website: http://finesse-therestaurant.com/

Address: 7025 County Road-46A (also known as H.E. Thomas Parkway) in Lake Mary, located in the Park Place Plaza at International Parkway, near the Marriott Hotel.

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

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Grouper cheeks, tender, flaky, perfect with the aioli sauce

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Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains

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Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread

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Paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice

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Smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze

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Sweet flan, a family recipe?

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Fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream

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Chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

Finesse (n: the restaurant) on Urbanspoon

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Lechonera is a term used to describe restaurants that serve “lechon asado” the roast pork that is traditionally served during Christmas time in Latin American countries all year round. Lechoneras are very popular among Latino communities and it is no surprise that they have been popping up through out Central Florida. Most are small mom and pop type places, the definition of hole in the walls, my favorite type of establishment. For often times it is in these hole in the walls that you find the best eats (and at a great price!).

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Lechonera Latina #2 is the offspring of (yes you guessed it) Lechonera Latina #1 located just a little west on Colonial near Dean Road. This Lechonera Latina #2 is located across from the busy Wal-Mart near the corner of Colonial Drive and Alafaya Trail. Inside you will feel like you are transported to the islands or some country in South America, the walls are painted with tropical scenes, and on this brisk day the doors were wide open to let the cool air in. There are little stalls where the food waits for your order ready to be scooped up in hefty portions and placed into your styrofoam to-go containers. In the back, huge pots filled with beef stew, stewed chicken, rice and beans, and more are all being churned and cooked fresh.

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Specializing in Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Latin cuisine, Lechonera Latina offers a variety of dining choices. For $7.00 you can get a whole meal with rice or noodles and a side item with your choice of Carnes De Res Guisada (Beef Stew), Costilla Guisada (Rib Stew), Rabo Guisado (Ox Tail Stew), Cerdo Guisado (Pork Stew), Cabrito Guisado (Goat Stew), Bacalao Guisado (Cod Fish Stew), Bistec Con Cebolla Y Pimiento (Pepper Steak), Pernil Asado (Roasted Pork Shoulder), Cuajito (Pork Chitlins), Pollo Al Horno (Roasted Chicken), Costillita a La Barbacoa (Barbecued Ribs), Carne Frita De Cerdo (Fried Pork), Rabo De Res (Ox Tail), or Chuleta al Horno (Pork Chops). They also make sandwiches here for $5.00.

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Ox tail with some noodles

On my first time there, I ordered the pernil sandwich, a large sandwich made with cuban bread and chunk full of roast pork. Very good. On a second time, I tried the ox tail which was also quite tasty but watch out for the bones. Overall I would recommend getting to go here.

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Pernil Sandwich with roast pork

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Tres Leches dessert – this company does all the areas desserts it seems lol

Visit them online at:

http://www.lechonera-latina.com/

Lechonera Latina Restaurant Latina #2 on Urbanspoon

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